Food, Travel and Tech

Chef and vegan of 30 years shares her top 5 plant-based recipes to make at home—with 'healthy, simple' foods

Banana french toast
(Photographer: Vanessa Rees)

Even as a chef, I've been cooking a lot more than usual while socially distancing from home.

It's been 30 years since I formed my first tofu ball, and I've never looked back. Whether you're trying out a plant-based diet for the first very time, or are a vegan in desperate need of some new recipes, you've come to the right place.

Below are some of my favorite vegan dishes to satisfy your breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert cravings. They're delicious, easy to make and require healthy, simple ingredients — some of which you may already have in your pantry!

Banana French Toast

Banana french toast
(Photographer: Vanessa Rees)

Instead of using milk and eggs, the custard for this French toast is made with bananas and rice milk. Some flour and cornstarch will bring it to a beautiful brown, and the refined coconut oil adds a buttery flavor. For the tastiest results, sit the bread out overnight to give it a little bit of staleness. 

Serves: Up to 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1½ cup rice milk (or preferred non-dairy milk)
  • 1 tbsp. refined coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 sandwich bread slices
  • Maple syrup, blueberries, banana slices (optional)

Steps:

  1. Mix bananas, milk, flour, corn starch, salt and vanilla extract in a blender and puree until completely smooth. Transfer to a 9x13-inch baking pan.
  2. Place 6 bread slices into batter and soak for 1 to 2 minutes. 
  3. Preheat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt thin layer of coconut oil in skillet. 
  4. Shake excess batter from bread and place in the pan. Cook on each side for about 4 minutes, flipping with a spatula. When the bread turns golden to medium brown (flecked with darker spots), transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  5. Repeat steps with second batch of bread.
  6. Serve with maple syrup, blueberries and banana slices.

Thai Noodles With Seared Brussels Sprouts

Thai Noodles With Seared Brussels Sprouts
(Photographer: Vanessa Rees)

Sweet, salty, spicy and tangy — this one-pot dish has lively textures and satisfying flavors. Tamari sauce (a thicker, less salty version of soy sauce) and miso team up for a salty punch, and the tamarind concentrate has an ethereal flavor, sort of tart and tropical plum.

Serves: Up to 4

Ingredients:

For the sauce

  • ⅓ cup tamari sauce
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. white miso
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

For the noodles

  • 8 oz. Thai rice noodles
  • 3 tbsp. refined coconut oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed
  • Salt
  • 8 oz. Brussels sprouts, shredded or quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 4 oz. mung bean sprouts (optional)
  • ½ cup salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red chili, such as Fresno, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 lime, wedged into 4 pieces
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped into matchsticks

Steps:

  1. Blend sauce ingredients in mixing bowl with a fork (or blender). It should be thick but pourable, like barbecue sauce. Add water as needed to thin it out.
  2. Bring large pot of water to boil and cook noodles; they should be slightly underdone. After draining, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Toss noodles in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Thinly slice white and light green parts of the scallions. Separately, slice darker green parts into 1-inch lengths.
  4. Preheat large wok or nonstick skillet over high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and sprinkle in salt. Add Brussels sprouts and sear, tossing occasionally until browned and cooked through, for about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. In the same pan over high heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Add scallions and cook, stirring  just until wilted, for about 2 minutes. Stir in some garlic, then pour in about half the sauce and stir until bubbling.
  6. Add noodles and cook, tossing in the sauce until cooked through, for about 2 minutes. Add remaining sauce, cooked Brussels sprouts, cilantro and bean sprouts. Toss to coat and heat through.
  7. Serve garnished with peanuts, chili, cilantro and lime wedges.

Chickpea Potato Curry With Peas

Chickpea Potato Curry With Peas
(Photographer: Vanessa Rees)

This is the kind of stew that you can eat cold — right out the fridge — in the middle of the night. Make sure you choose a top-quality curry blend whose first ingredient isn't "Yellow Dye No. 5." I like to serve this dish with basmati rice and store-bought chutney!

Serves: Up to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1½ cup shallots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, minced
  • cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. mild curry powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp. agave
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¾ lb. Yukon gold potatoes, chopped in ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 15 oz. canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz. canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Hot chili pepper for garnish, sliced (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat 4-quart pot over medium heat. Saute shallots in coconut oil for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.
  2. Add garlic and ginger, and saute for about 30 seconds. Stir in cilantro, curry powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, broth, agave and salt. 
  3. Add carrots and potatoes. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately lower heat to a simmer, and leave lid ajar to let the steam escape. Cook potatoes until tender, for about 5 minutes more.
  4. Once potatoes are tender, add chickpeas, coconut milk and frozen peas. Heat through.
  5. Serve garnished with cilantro and fresh chili.

Bean and Pearled Barley Chili

Bean and Pearl Barley Chili
(Photographer: Vanessa Rees)

Pearled barley gives this dish the heartiest texture. It also absorbs all the aromatic flavors and makes for a mean bowl of chili. I love topping my bowl with crushed tortilla chips, avocado, chopped tomatoes and fresh cilantro.

Serves: Up to 10

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced medium
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. mild chili powder
  • 2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup light-colored Mexican beer
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup pearled barley, uncooked
  • 28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
  • 25 oz. canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp. agave
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice

 Steps:

  1. Preheat 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, green peppers and bay leaves in oil with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes, until onion is lightly browned.
  2. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook to toast spices for about a minute.
  3. Pour in the beer and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Let it cook for about 2 minutes. Add barley and vegetable broth, give it a good stir.
  4. Cover the pot, leaving lid slightly ajar to let steam escape. Turn the heat up and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until barley is almost tender, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes and kidney beans. Cover pot and turn heat down to a simmer. Let it cook for about 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Barley should be very tender, and the chili thick. 
  6. Add lime juice and maple syrup, then taste for salt and seasoning. Remove bay leaves.
  7. Serve with your choice of accouterments. 

Glazed Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Scones

Glazed Blueberry Lemon Scones
(Photographer: Vanessa Rees)

These scones go perfectly with some tea at brunch, or just as a snack after dinner. (Feel free to just use regular lemons; the flavor will just be a little more tart.)

Serves: Up to 5 (about 12 scones)

Ingredients:

For the scones

  • 1 ¼ cups unsweetened almond milk (or preferred non-dairy milk)
  • 1 tbsp. Meyer lemon juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup refined coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. Meyer lemon zest
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup refined coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp. Meyer lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. In a large measuring cup, whisk milk and lemon juice, then set aside to curdle.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add coconut oil in small clumps, then use your fingers or a pastry cutter to cut into the flour, until texture becomes pebble-like.
  3. Create a well in the center and add the milk mixture, zest, oil and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon until about half the flour is incorporated. Add blueberries and fold until all ingredients are just moistened. Use hands to knead blueberries in.
  4. Place parchment on counter. Divide the dough into two blobs and shape each into a round disc, roughly 8 inches in circumference. Using a sharp knife, slice disc in half. Then, slice each of those halves into thirds (so you have 6 cute triangles). Transfer over to a baking sheet.
  5. Repeat with remaining blob of dough.
  6. Bake for roughly 22 to 26 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and firm.
  7. While scones are baking, prepare the glaze: Sift powdered sugar into a large bowl. Add lemon juice, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously until a thick and smooth, but pourable, icing is formed.
  8. When scones are done, transfer onto a cooling rack. After it's slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze while still warm.
  9. Serve immediately, or allow glaze to set for a few minutes.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a chef and cookbook author of "Veganomicon," "Vegan Brunch" and "I Can Cook Vegan." She is the executive chef and owner of Modern Love, a swanky vegan comfort food restaurant with locations in Omaha, Nebraska and Brooklyn, New York. Isa has been vegan for 30 years. Follow her on Twitter @IsaChandra.

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